Should you shut up if you’re out of step?

I don’t know where you’d have to be living in order to have missed the fact that David Bowie is no longer with us. This isn’t the place for tributes, of which there have been plenty. A couple of people, though, put a contrary view. This can be valid – but I do wonder, is it wise every time?

Your engagement with media, social or traditional, will reinforce your personal reputation. If you’re engaging with the media then people will walk away with some impression of you. So let’s take an example.

Julie Burchill wrote this piece in the Spectator, for example. She makes the valid point that Bowie spent his life making a good living doing stuff he loved, which is entirely to be celebrated. She spends a lot more time, though, criticising other people for writing stuff, going onto social media and pouring out their views on the great man. In her view they have nothing to say. But what’s really going on here?

One element of what’s happening in that article is that Burchill continues to brand herself as a distinctive voice which is out of step with the masses. Fine, that’s how she makes her living. I have no evidence to suggest she is provoking deliberately, I’m sure her reaction is genuine enough, but she has a reputation as a bit of a provocateur to sustain. This piece does the job admirably. Other people have written stuff that might reflect less well.

Beyond Bowie


The I newspaper, for example, carried a piece poking fun at people who didn’t know who Bowie was. This was a bit reminiscent of the time Sir Paul McCartney worked with Kanye West and the media became quite sniffy about younger people not knowing Macca. (This story was largely discredited here but it’s the sniffiness, not the accuracy, about which I want to make a point).

What the I and, in the McCartney example, the Daily Mail, seem not to have realised is that they’re not just highlighting people not knowing about music written 30 years before they were born. They’re illustrating their own intolerance of people not knowing “their” stuff. I find that tells me quite a lot about them. Individuals and business owners are taking to social media and making similar declarations about stuff all the time.

You can agree with them or not. The question for business owners and people who value their reputation on social media is whether they want a contrarian comment, sometimes clashing with the vast majority, to influence their reputation for a long time to come. It’s very difficult for social media to forget things.

Personally I prefer to leave my provocative comments to the stuff that really matters to me. If I’m going to put someone off working with me then let it be a gun lobbyist or a racist – I don’t mind annoying them. Putting a provocative view out there that will alienate people is something that needs careful thought before you do it.

Having said which…Jerry Hall to marry Rupert Murdoch? Seriously..?

Image from Flickr: Sarah Stierch

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